Buena Vista Forward Initiative Starting

Residents Invited To Participate In ‘Charette’

Even as Ed Walker winds down his involvement in efforts to revitalize downtown Buena Vista, a new economic development initiative in the city’s business district is taking shape.

Buena Vista Forward is the name of a planning initiative that is taking stock of what is in downtown and seeking public input for what city residents and other stakeholders would like to see in the future. The city was awarded a $35,000 Community Development Block Grant last year to fund the planning project.

“Our consultants are going to put together a really great plan,” said Kristina Ramsey, Buena Vista’s economic development director, on Tuesday. A strategic plan that is to be developed between now and the end of the year, she said, is to be used to apply for a more substantial CDB grant early next year that would, if awarded, fund implementation of the plan.

Tom Roberts, the city’s director of community development, said he’s very pleased with the work of the consultants, who have been on the job since mid-August. “We’re really excited about the plan itself,” he remarked.

Surveys about downtown were distributed to city residents this past Saturday. The consultants, who have set up shop in the arts council building downtown at 2337 Magnolia Ave., will hold a “charette” there on Thursday and Friday.

Charette is defined as a meeting of stakeholders who attempt to resolve conflicts and work toward solutions. People who have an interest in the future of downtown Buena Vista are encouraged to stop in and talk to the consultants either day.

The objective of the professional planning team, according to a press release issued Monday, is “to work with the community to develop a unified vision for the redevelopment of downtown. This planning effort will place a strong emphasis on gathering input and comments from residents and business owners throughout the design and planning process.”

The goal is “the creation of a master plan that represents the community’s vision for the downtown, along with strategies for marketing and branding to promote the economic revitalization of Buena Vista’s business district. The planning team will work closely with the city to prioritize projects and identify the resources necessary to take them on. New strategies for economic growth will be explored, recognizing that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for years to come and we will need new models for growing and sustaining businesses.”

On its website (BuenaVistaForward.com), the newly formed organization states that although the focus is on downtown, “the planning team will be looking at a wide range of issues related to circulation patterns in and out of the downtown as well as making stronger connections to the river, regional trails, city gateway locations, and other key businesses and industries that are important to growing and sustaining the community.”

While Buena Vista Forward undertakes a planning process this fall, Roanoke developer Walker is closing down GoBV, a multi-year project in which he acquired vacant downtown Buena Vista properties and sought to create economic development opportunities. Walker announced two weeks ago that he is selling his remaining Buena Vista properties.

The survey that was distributed by Buena Visa Forward to residences on Saturday can be found on the group’s website and on a Facebook page called Buena Vista Forward. Anyone who would like to take the survey by telephone can call (800) 488-3189.

Consultant team members are as follows:

Terry Ammons of Studio Ammons in Petersburg (architect, designer and planner) is the team leader. He will address design issues for downtown.

Chuck D’Aprix of Downtown Economics of Richmond is a downtown revitalization expert who will look at how to grow and attract businesses for downtown while also creating activity on the downtown streets. He is to examine establishing an entrepreneur development program for downtown and will coordinate the team in terms of a brand for the downtown district.

Bull Mechnick of LPDA of Charlottesville is a landscape architect and land use planner. He will look at land use and design issues in downtown.

Dan Pezzoni of Lexington is an architectural historian and historic preservation expert. He will share his expertise on historic preservation and related issues.

The News-Gazette

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